Massively OP’s 2021 Awards: MMORPG of the Year


Welcome back to Massively Overpowered’s formal end-of-the-year awards!

Today’s award is for the MMORPG the Year, which was awarded to Final Fantasy XIV last year. Longtime readers will recall that way back in 2014, our staff was so disillusioned with the new MMOs launching that we withheld this award. In subsequent years, we decided to open this award (and many of our others) up to all live MMOs, regardless of launch year, and that’s a tradition we’ve stuck to ever since, giving older MMOs a chance to compete with the new. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end – and congratulations to all of this year’s nominees and winners!

And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the MMORPG of the Year for 2021 is…


Andy McAdams: In my nomination, I said “grudgingly FFXIV,” not because I don’t think it deserves it, because it clearly does, but I would rather another game be able to take the mantle. I’d really anticipated New World being my vote here before it’s wildly successful launch followed by stepping on a rake and twapping themselves in the face, then faceplaning, and standing up to run face-first into a cement wall a few times. Last I checked, New World was still trying to break down that brick wall with its proverbial face.

Brianna Royce: I think we gotta quit this idea that FFXIV did nothing all year or that its burst was just because of WoW sucking. Only a handful of games benefitted from WoW’s catastrophes this year, and the ones that did, did so because they were already doing WoW but way better, which is something to celebrate. And Endwalker is an absolute force of nature. It’s not at all fair to pretend XIV did only the minimum, and I say this as someone who doesn’t even play it. It’s just reality in our genre. Likewise, I did play New World, and it has a tremendous amount of potential. I won’t deny that it was a powerful new launch in our genre (the traffic that game drives all by itself is a clear sign that MMOs are still desired). I just wish it hadn’t had so many trainwrecks this fall as Amazon reinvents about a million wheels. But mostly I’m fine with these tying. They won for very different reasons. One is the best of the genre’s present. The other is a possible future.

Carlo Lacsina: Final Fantasy XIV. Y’all can see the problem, right? It’s the second year in a row we’re giving it to FFXIV. Yes, we know the game is good. Folks don’t have to go very far to hear someone talk about how great this MMO is, and I’m right there with you. This game helped my wife and I get closer over the years. But for goodness’ sake, if we’re giving this award to the same game for the second freaking time, then there’s a problem here. Final Fantasy XIV is basically what happens when the Wrath of the Lich King formula gets a chance to grow. There’s so much to do and with Endwalker, we’ve got a complete storyline folks can enjoy from start to finish. So yes, this makes my 2021 game of the year because the story is long, the game loop is from 2008, and Blizzard did an awesome job selling this game to its customers and driving people to Square-Enix. Hopefully next year, we can actually give it to another game. So to all those other MMORPGs, do better.

Chris Neal: Final Fantasy XIV won by simply not fumbling the ball, which is sad but is also something to laud, in my opinion, especially with all that went on this past year. Also, this year was just this game’s biggest overall. New World, meanwhile, could have been a contender and had all the ingredients to really make a splash – and for a while it did. Then, well, everything happened. That all said, the game’s fevered launch and huge arrival does prove that people want something new. I just hope Amazon Games can course correct. I want competition for this category.

Colin Henry: FFXIV, ESO. Even though it didn’t do much more than simply continue in its expected pattern, it’s hard to deny that this has been a huge year for Final Fantasy XIV. And in a year when most of its competition is a bit of a mess, staying the course is all it needed to do to be the best. I feel that the same goes for The Elder Scrolls Online as well; it did its usual cadence of expansions, added some nice quality-of-life systems, and wasn’t a trainwreck. Is it bad that that “not a trainwreck” is all you need to do to be MMO of the Year this year? Maybe, but there it is. I really, really wanted to vote for New World for this award. It dominated headlines and Steam charts and everything for quite a while, and it’s still doing pretty well all things considered, but with all of the bugs and exploits it has almost constantly dealt with, not to mention the fact that its endgame doesn’t seem to be interesting or rewarding, I just can’t bring myself to vote for it at this time. Every MMO launch is rough, but this game’s launch was worse than most.

Eliot Lefebvre: Final Fantasy XIV. I kind of wish this weren’t my vote this year, but Bree actually brought me around by pointing out that out of the big five… well, World of Warcraft was busy shooting itself in the foot with a zeal and intensity usually reserved for exciting things people want, Guild Wars 2 was in a holding pattern for End of Dragons, and neither Black Desert nor The Elder Scrolls Online really did anything major. That leaves Final Fantasy XIV and New World, and I’d love to vote for the new kid… if it could go one freakin’ week without a game-destroying bug. Which it can’t. Meanwhile, FFXIV destroyed its concurrency records and generally just made running an MMO look easy and straightforward, putting out patches, keeping expansion hype high, apologizing for delays and generally keeping the people satisfied. I hate voting for it multiple years back-to-back and I hate when it’s already a shoo-in for expansion, but here we are.

Justin Olivetti: New World. It had a messy launch, make no mistake about it, but that couldn’t quite erase the fact that this was a well-done MMO with a lot of great potential and fun. Crowds voted with their time and enthusiasm, and New World emerged as the biggest winner this year.

Mia DeSanzo: New World.

Sam Kash: New World.

Tyler Edwards: New World. Before the voting on this first started, I figured New World was a slam dunk, and then the game… well, pretty much caught fire. Even after all that, I still think it’s probably the best choice on the basis of all the things it does well — like combat, aesthetics, and world-building — and the huge launch it had. Love it or hate it, New World did show that there is still a lot of hunger for a quality new MMORPG, and that will hopefully help breathe new life into the genre. The recent troubles do make this a lot less decisive of a win than it could have been, but I also don’t feel there’s a lot of strong competition. FFXIV had a big year, but that was more down to WoW imploding than anything it was doing, and ESO’s chugging along nicely, but it hasn’t really done a lot to steal the spotlight this year.

Final Fantasy XIV and New World took our award for MMORPG of the Year. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the best MMORPG of 2021?

  • Final Fantasy XIV (54%, 869 Votes)
  • New World (9%, 139 Votes)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (10%, 163 Votes)
  • World of Warcraft (2%, 37 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 (8%, 120 Votes)
  • Black Desert (2%, 38 Votes)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 (0%, 5 Votes)
  • Elyon (0%, 4 Votes)
  • Swords of Legends Online (1%, 10 Votes)
  • Crowfall (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Bless Unleashed (0%, 1 Votes)
  • LOTRO (3%, 50 Votes)
  • Star Trek Online (0%, 7 Votes)
  • SWTOR (3%, 40 Votes)
  • EVE Online (2%, 26 Votes)
  • DC Universe Online (0%, 3 Votes)
  • Neverwinter (0%, 5 Votes)
  • RuneScape (1%, 21 Votes)
  • PlanetSide 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Blade and Soul (0%, 1 Votes)
  • ArcheAge (1%, 8 Votes)
  • No Man's Sky (1%, 21 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (2%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,440

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How does MassivelyOP choose the winner?
Our team gathers together to nominate and discuss candidates and hopefully settle on a consensus winner. We don’t have a hard vote, but we do include written commentary from every writer who submitted it on time so that you can see where some of us differed, what our secondary picks were, and why we personally nominated what we did (or didn’t). The site’s award goes to the staff selection, but we’ll include both it and the community’s top nomination in our debrief in January.
How does MassivelyOP populate this poll?
Poll options include all MMOs nominated plus a few others we thought should be included.
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